A TV-advert currently running shows a plumber trying to mend a leak under the sink. The crack of his bottom is plainly visible above his baggy jeans. Staring at him from the kitchen table is a young boy aged maybe five or six.
The boy lectures the plumber on the folly of showing too much flesh now that summer has gone. The plumber listens meekly then does as he is told, covering up his midriff. The ad, designed to flog a yoghurt drink, reflects a worrying aspect of the Dutch adult-child relationship: namely that kids are often the boss. In other western European cultures the plumber would have probably told the kid to mind his own business.
Kid power stems from a worthy attempt to get children to think for themselves. Children are encouraged at primary school to begin to question things. The strategy definitely has a positive side. But the process has been badly managed. Most of the kids’ questioning seems to concern their parents’ decisions – even bedtimes have to be the subject of thorough negotiation. Prime minister Jan Peter Balkenende complains about the lack of norms and values in society. His government has launched several initiatives to counter the problem. Unfortunately a course in manners for six-year-olds was not among them.